Reporter Moira Harrison is new on the job in St. Louis, but she’s no rookie to investigative reporting. She knows how to dig for answers and get results. But when she hits a pedestrian on a rainy night in a wooded area—only to have both the victim and the good Samaritan who stopped to assist disappear—she turns to P.I. Cal Burke, an ex-homicide detective, to help her sort out the puzzle. Cal is more than a little skeptical of her story, especially since the police have dismissed it. But as clues begin to surface, bringing them closer to answers, the danger mounts. Because someone doesn’t want this mystery solved—and will stop at nothing to protect a shocking secret that will destroy a life built on lies.
A riveting storyline…one of those addictive books that once started, compels you to shut out the world till you reach the very last page. New York Journal of Books
Hannon’s intricately developed characters struggle with complex moral issues, bringing into question whether the ends ever do justify the means. An engaging, satisfying tale that will no doubt leave readers anxiously anticipating the next installment. Publishers Weekly
Double-RITA winner Hannon begins a new romantic-suspense series, and this novel’s fast-paced plot and compelling characters (including a surprisingly complex villain) make it an excellent suggestion for inspirational-fiction fans as well as readers who enjoy Mary Higgins Clark’s subtly chilling brand of suspense. Booklist
With the intense mixture of romance, mystery, darkness, and suspense, the author has done a great job introducing some truly interesting characters, including a ‘bad guy’ that will completely surprise readers. Enjoy! Suspense Magazine
What a lousy night to get lost.
Moira Harrison peered through the April rain slashing across her windshield. Even at full speed, the wipers were no match for the torrential onslaught. The faint line bisecting the narrow strip of pavement—the only thing keeping her on the road and out of the ditch filled with churning runoff immediately to her right—faded in and out with alarming frequency.
Tightening her grip on the wheel with one hand, she cranked up the defroster with the other. Fogged-up windows were the last thing she needed. As it was, the high-intensity xenon headlights of her trusty Camry were barely denting the dense darkness of the woods-rimmed rural Missouri road. Nor were they penetrating the shrouding downpour.
So much for the premium she’d paid to upgrade from standard halogen.
She spared a quick look left and right. No light from house or farm broke the desolate blackness. Nor were there any road signs to indicate her location. Maybe a St. Louis–area native would be better able to wend his or her way back to civilization than a newcomer like her. But she doubted it. Dark, winding rural routes were confusing. Period. Especially in the rain.
With a sigh, Moira refocused on the road. If she’d known Highway 94 was prone to flooding and subject to sudden closure, she’d never have lingered for dinner in Augusta after she finished her interview and risked subjecting herself to this poorly marked detour.
Instead, she’d have headed straight back to the rented condo she now called home and spent her Friday evening safe and warm, cuddled up with a mug of soothing peppermint tea, organizing her notes. She might even have started on a first draft of the feature article. It wouldn’t hurt to impress her new boss with an early turn-in.
A bolt of lightning sliced through the sky, and she cringed as a bone-jarring boom of thunder rolled through the car.
That had been close.
She had to get away from all these trees.
Increasing her pressure on the gas pedal, she kept her attention fixed on the road as she groped on the passenger seat for her purse. Maybe her distance glasses were crammed into a corner and she’d missed them the first time she’d checked.
Five seconds later, hopes dashed, she gave up the search. The glasses must still be in the purse she’d taken to the movie theater last weekend. That was about the only time she ever used them—except behind the wheel on rainy nights.
The zipper on her purse snagged as she tried to close it, and Moira snuck a quick glance at the passenger seat. Too dark to see. She’d have to deal with it later.
Releasing the purse, she lifted her gaze—and sucked in a sharp breath.
Front and center, caught in the beam of her headlights, was a frantically waving person.
Directly in the path of the car.
Less than fifty feet away.
Lungs locking, Moira squeezed the wheel and jammed the brake to the floor.
Screeching in protest, the car fishtailed as it slid toward the figure with no noticeable reduction in speed.
Stop! Please stop!
Moira screamed the silent plea in her head as she yanked the wheel hard to the left.
Instead of changing direction, however, the car began to skid sideways on the slick pavement.
But in the instant before the beams of the headlights swung away from the road—and away from the figure standing in her path—one image seared itself across her brain.
Glazed, terror-filled eyes.
Then the person was gone, vanished in the darkness, as the vehicle spun out of control.
Moira braced herself.
But when she felt a solid thump against the side of the car, she knew her prayers hadn’t been answered.
She’d hit the terrified person who’d been trying to flag her down.
The bottom fell out of her stomach as the car continued to careen across the road. Onto the shoulder. Into the woods. One bone-jarring bounce after another.
It didn’t stop until the side smashed into a tree, slamming her temple against the window of the door to the accompaniment of crumpling metal.
Then everything went silent.
For a full half a minute, Moira remained motionless, hands locked on the wheel, every muscle taut, heart hammering. Her head pounded in rhythm to the beat of rain against the metal roof, and she drew a shuddering breath. Blinked. The car had stopped spinning, but the world around her hadn’t.
She closed her eyes. Continued to breathe. In. Out. In. Out. When she at last risked another peek, the scene had steadied.
Peeling her fingers off the wheel, she took a quick inventory. Her arms and legs moved, and nothing except her head hurt. As far as she could tell, she hadn’t sustained any serious injuries.
But she knew the person she’d hit hadn’t been as lucky—a person who might very well be lying in the middle of the road right now.
In the path of an oncoming car.
Her pulse stuttered, and she fought against a crescendo of panic as she tried to kick-start her brain. To think through the fuzziness.
Okay. First priority—call 911. After that, she’d see what she could do to help the person she’d hit while she waited for the pros to arrive.
Plan in place, she groped for her purse. But the seat beside her was empty. Hadn’t her purse been there moments before?
With a herculean effort, she coerced the left side of her brain to engage.
Her purse must have fallen to the floor while the car was spinning.
Hands shaking, she fumbled with the clasp on her seat belt. It took three jabs at the button before it released. Once free of the constraint, she leaned sideways and reached toward the floor—just as the car door creaked open behind her.
With a gasp, she jerked upright. A black-shrouded figure stood in the shadows, out of range of her dome light.
Her heart began to bang against her rib cage again as a cold mist seeped into the car.
“I saw the accident. Are you all right, miss?”
The voice was deep. Male. And the only clue to his gender. The monk-like hood of his slicker kept most of his features in shadows.
But she didn’t care who he was. Help had arrived.
Thank you, God!
“Yes. I . . . I think so. I banged my head against the window, and I’m a little dizzy. But . . . I hit someone on the road. I need to call 911. And I need to help the other person.”
The man leaned a bit closer, and she glimpsed the outline of a square jaw. “You’ve got a nasty bump on your temple. Moving around isn’t a good idea until the paramedics check you out. I’ll help the person you hit.” He shifted sideways and looked across her. “Is that blood on the passenger seat?”
As Moira shifted sideways to look, she felt a jab in her thigh. “Ow!”
“Watch the glass. Lean a little to the right.” The man restrained her with one hand on her upper arm as she complied. “Hold on a second while I brush off the seat.”
He was silent for a moment, and she shivered as the wind shifted and the rain began to pummel her through the open door, soaking through her sweater.
“Okay. I think I got most of it.”
He released her, and she collapsed back against the seat. As he retracted his hand, she caught a quick glimpse of his gold Claddagh wedding ring. The same kind her dad wore.
Somehow that comforted her.
“Stay put.” He melted back into the shadows, beyond the range of the dome light. “I’ll call 911 and check on the other person. Give me a few minutes.”
With that, he closed the door.
Alone again in the dark car, Moira tried to keep him in sight. But within seconds he disappeared into the rain.
As the minutes ticked by and the full impact of what had happened began to register, her shivering intensified and her stomach churned.
She could have been killed.
And she may have killed or seriously injured someone else.
Wrapping her arms around herself, Moira closed her eyes as a wave of dizziness swept over her.
At least help had arrived.
With that thought to sustain her, she let the darkness close in.
Moira’s story about her strange experience on the rainy road is dismissed by everyone—yet she feels compelled to investigate because the image of the woman’s terrified eyes is burned in her memory. In Moira’s place, what would you have done after that night? Why?
Cal was never able to pin the blame for his wife’s death on the perpetrator, and he continues to feel guilt over her death. Do you think his self-recrimination is warranted? Why or why not? Have you ever made a decision you later felt guilty about, because of the consequences? How did that change you?
Moira is smart, savvy and talented…yet she was duped by her fiancée. What are some reasons she might have failed to notice clues about his real character? Have you ever been betrayed? How did you feel about that—and what did you learn?
Ken Blaine had everything going for him—but he made choices that ruined his life. Do you think his experience with his father is the reason he became so misguided? Based on the one flashback scene between them, what was your impression of the elder Blaine and his relationship with his son? Point to specific things in that scene that helped form your impression.
Ellen Blaine has given up on a marriage that appears to have been satisfying at one time—yet she remains in the relationship because it’s convenient and gives her the material things she wants. Do you know of anyone who’s in a marriage that’s less than ideal? Why do some marriages lose their luster? What are some ways spouses can keep a marriage vibrant and healthy?
Had Ellen Blaine intervened when her husband began to exhibit signs of problems, do you think his outcome have been different? What might she have done to try and help him?
Blaine rationalized the actions he took with older patients, using many of the arguments employed by those who favor euthanasia. What do you think about those arguments? How might you counter them? What does the bible teach on this subject?
Moira struggles a little with the pretext techniques Cal and the other Phoenix PIs use. Do you agree with Cal’s justification? Do you have a problem with pretext used in the cause of justice? Why or why not?
What secondary character did you find most interesting? Why?
Blaine’s character is very complex; a true study in contradictions. Did you find him to be credible? Why or why not? Based on what we know about his background, why might he have had a special interest in wanting to heal children?
What was your impression of PIs—and the cases they work on—going into this book? Did this story reinforce your opinion…or change it? If so, in what way?
Moira learns a lesson from Nikki about judging other people by appearances. Have you ever done that? If so, have you ever been wrong? Why do you think our opinions are often so influenced by appearances? Is that always a bad thing?
Moira has a close, healthy relationship with her father, and though her brother spends a lot of time overseas, it’s clear they’re close, too. In what ways can strong family relationships enhance a person’s life?
What were your impressions of Cal’s partners? Are you looking forward to their stories?
As an investigative reporter, Moira has handled some hot stories—and taken personal risks in the name of exposing crime. In light of that, did her decision at the end of the book to follow Blaine (since no one else was available) surprise you? Was it in keeping with her character? What other choice might she have made?
Did the final scene with Blaine—and the action he took—surprise you? Why or why not?
At one point, Moira suggests to Cal that he follow Socrates’ advice about prayer: “Our prayers should be for blessings in general, for God knows best what is good for us.” Do you agree with that, or do you think people should pray for specific things? Why?
Describe Moira, Cal and Blaine, using three adjectives for each. Cite specific examples of actions they took in the story that made you choose these words.
Who was the most interesting main character for you? Why?
Did you find Vanished suspenseful? Did you think the plot was well constructed and credible, and the characters believable? Why or why not? Talk about your impressions of the book from a literary standpoint—its strengths and weaknesses. If you were the author, would you have done anything differently?